Art & Videos

“It is nearly always the most improbable things that really come to pass.”

—E. T. A. Hoffmann, German writer, born January 24, 1862

odeMestylistI suggest a visit to Kris Badertscher’s brand new site Art & Videos. It looks great and has a lot of her fine work to look at. If you haven’t encountered Kris’s work before, you’ve got a treat coming. (BTW, A & V is a Squarespace 6 site. I’ve been doing some sites in SS6 recently and it makes a spiffy looking site.)

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Trains, Please

“I ain’t what I used to be, but who the hell is?”

—Dizzy Dean, American athlete, born January 16, 1910

DizzyDeanGoudeycardHall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean was the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in one season (went 30–7 with a 2.66 ERA with Saint Louis in 1934); he also said: “Son, what kind of a pitch would you like to miss?” That scores well on the ever-popular badass scale.

We like the idea of better rail connection between Springfield and Boston, but the important thing for us is that “Amtrak’s high-speed rail service [in the Pioneer Valley] will begin in early 2015.” Practical commuter rail in the Valley will be, like the article says, “a significant economic boon to Northampton, Holyoke, and Greenfield.” Can’t wait.

I love Charles Perrault’s elegant Last Word characterization of the downtrodden youngest son of three, who thwarts the witch (or whatever the local threat is) and gets the girl in folktales from India to Norway.

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:45AM Holyoke Women Business Owners Alliance Breakfast Meeting
12:00PM Springfield Exchange Club of Springfield
12:00-1:00PM Northampton Pioneer Valley Wellness Alliance
5:00PM Springfield The Business Network at Max’s in Springfield
8:00PM Northampton Northampton Webdive – After Dark


I Hear That Train a Comin’

Edward Lamson Henry - The 945 Accommodation“Meantime, $73 million worth of work on the Knowledge Corridor is much further along and officials now estimate that Amtrak’s high-speed rail service will begin in early 2015, ushering in the return of passenger trains through Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke for the first time since the late 1980s.

“Those plans call for a shift in the Amtrak Vermonter’s alignment, which today takes it through Amherst and Palmer before getting to Springfield, to a more direct southern route.

“While infrastructure work takes place this year, Brennan said discussions are taking place to increase the number of planned daily runs. Increasing the number of daily shuttles will provide a significant economic boon to Northampton, Holyoke and Greenfield, the mayors of those communities said in a joint letter to state transportation officials earlier this year.”

Talk of high-speed rail between Springfield and Boston heats up.

The Last Word

“The poor child was the drudge of the household, and was always in the wrong. He was, however, the most bright and discreet of all the brothers; and if he spoke little, he heard and thought the more.”

—Charles Perrault, French author, born January 12, 1628

Hilltown Families at TEDx Shelburne Falls 2013

“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”

—Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egyptian leader, born January 15, 1918

Nasser portrait2I love this quote from Gamal Abdel Nasser. He was a major figure in the history of the modern Middle East post-WW2. It’s nice that his given name, Gamal, means “beauty,” too.

Demographic change again. What am I, a broken record? This excellent piece points out that the dynamics are complex and not necessarily as uniformly dire as linear extrapolations of the trends may make them seem. The impact of age on social arrangements will change as people live longer and stay healthy and are able to and desire to continue working.


Go watch Sienna Wildfield’s TEDx Shelburne Falls 2013 talk. It’s really good.You should be supporting Hilltown Families, too: it’s a precious resource for the whole Western Massachusetts region that only exists because of love, dedication, and hard work. (It’s also a powerful and very economical way to reach tens of thousands of Western Mass people in prime demographics for the marketers among us.)

The Last Word today goes to Saint Mary MacKillop , who was canonized in 2010. Don’t hold her connection with ex-pope Benedict against her. And what she says is very true.

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Nine: Kill Them Without Mercy. Ten: Smile for the Cameras

“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.”

—Tillie Olsen, American novelist, born January 14, 1913

Stinging nettlesWhy is World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen so hard to beat? Above all he’s nettlesome. The ten qualities of the article describes are all well worth cultivating. You too, can be nettlesome — or at least make yourself thoroughly hard to play against.

(By the way, nettles are very good to eat when they’re young and tender. Full of vitamins, too. They make a really good soup in the early spring.)

When I’m not being nettlesome, I very much agree with Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Last Word. Kindness is the finest thing in the world.

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You Call this Cold?

“Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?”

—Jack London, American novelist, born January 12, 1876

300px-Sargent - Lord RibblesdaleThe Apollo Grill provided Don’t Eat Lunch Alone with a commodious and friendly home for its entire life in Easthampton. InCommN is currently taking a break from the lunch networking racket; but we wish the Douglasses the best of luck with their new venture, and look forward to visiting their new restaurant, Galaxy. Easthampton continues to grow and get better.

Jack London’s “To Build A Fire” puts this frigid winter we’re enduring into perspective. “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things and not in the significances.” I’ve never really read London; going to have to give him a try.

John Singer Sargent was one of the greatest portrait painters of all time. He the invaluable talent of endowing his subject with superhuman glamor. Nobody can be that beautiful, woman or man, but the subjects of his portraits are, at least on the evidence of the very expensive canvases he produced for them. Sargent, as his last word suggests, was at best cynical about his trade.

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“It would be wonderful if I could see the end of civilization during my lifetime.”

—Hayao Miyazaki, Japanese director, born January 5, 1941

Porco Rosso Movie PosterIf you don’t have children you may not be familiar with Miyazaki’s work. He has now retired from active film production but leaves a long list of masterpieces, including My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and my favorite, Porco Rosso. Do yourself a favor and watch them in Japanese with subtitles. Avoid the dubbed versions with the egregious Fanning sisters. I think Disney employs them to train adults to loathe the sound of small children’s voices.

When I was a boy, my bicycle was magic to me because it extended my range of exploration by an order of magnitude. I never knew that that my trusty Schwinn shouldn’t actually be able to, y’know, stay upright.

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My Way Or…

“I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits.”

—Charles Goodyear, American inventor, born December 29, 1800

Jesus-hugging-a-dinosaur-750x1024On reflection, it’s clear that what’s at issue between the study participants is not really gender, although this sounds like the mordant joke about male error and female judgment (“If a man is alone in the forest with no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?”). It’s something more fundamental: power.

Couple of things:

  1. Situations where one side is objectively correct about something repugnant to the other side? Refusal to accept the theory of evolution. The age of the earth. Uselessness of vitamin supplements. The errors of “scientific” racism. Although the correct view may be considered settled, the wrong one continues to be widely held and angrily expressed.
  2. Nothing can ever be settled definitively except by killing one or more participants in a disagreement. Not a winning strategy for enforcing one’s views, right? Thomas Kuhn cannily observed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that paradigm shifts in science finally succeed because of generational change, not by convincing everyone.
  3. Normally the Wrongs have significant ability to resist accepting what’s Right. That’s why the study had to be terminated early. By the rules of the experiment, the guy had to agree to everything. This isn’t what happens in the wild. There’s always brokerage or negotiation. Failing a satisfactory compromise, we find divorce in marriage, secession in nations, and/or violence.

Very interesting that the authors of the study couldn’t find any “similar articles.” Power is a dangerous subject.

My new favorite restaurant in Holyoke: El Rincón Boricua, 216 Lyman Street. Open 7:00AM to 6:00PM. If you order a medium platter of pernil with a side of rice with peas, you’ll have enough for two people to overeat (I had to skip dinner last night after having lunch there yesterday). I cannot imagine what a large platter must be like. Try it. Delicious food and friendly service.

Happy New Year! (I guess Andrew Johnson did not count spelling among his many accomplishments.)


The High Cost of Always Being Right

“This might be the first study to systematically assess whether it is better to be right than happy; a Medline search in May 2013 found no similar articles. Our null hypothesis was that it is better to be right than happy.

“The intervention was for the male to agree with his wife’s every opinion and request without complaint. Even if he believed the female participant was wrong, the male was to bow and scrape…. The data safety monitoring committee stopped the study because of severe adverse outcomes after 12 days. By then the male participant found the female participant to be increasingly critical of everything he did. The situation had become intolerable by day 12. He sat on the end of their bed, made her a cup of tea, and said as much; explained the trial and then contacted the Data Safety Monitoring committee who terminated the trial immediately…. It seems that being right, however, is a cause of happiness, and agreeing with what one disagrees with is a cause of unhappiness.”

Being right or being happy: pilot study

The Last Word

“It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”

—Andrew Johnson, American president, born December 29, 1808

The Road to Zero Population Singapore

“Young people everywhere have been allowed to choose between love and a garbage disposal unit. Everywhere they have chosen the garbage disposal unit.”

—Guy Debord, French writer, born December 28, 1931

320px-Garbage disposal from aboveAlmost everywhere the trend is toward zero population growth. There are a number of good reasons for it:

  • Social security provision in advanced economies replaces the need for children to care for aged parents.
  • Women are educated and participate in the workforce.
  • Housing is expensive in advanced economies. Large families take up more space.
  • Sex is no longer the only cheap entertainment available to most people. There’s a lot more to do in the dark today.
  • Birth control means that even when people are still having sex (see the piece about Japanese young people and the remarks in today’s link about rising “singlehood” among Singaporean women) they don’t have to have children if they don’t want to.

Model Railroads. Back in the day, there wasn’t much choice: you could either buy what Lionel or American Flyer offered or you made your own. People would have miniature machine tools to make their own rolling stock, even, as well as making landscapes out of sponges and houses out of balsa wood. Now you can buy it all.

I’m reminded also of John Phillip Sousa’s fears about mechanical reproduction of sound. We can listen to all of the music in the world (gain) but fewer of us can make music ourselves (loss).

I love to cook. I got there by loving food and wanting to eat things that I couldn’t get in the United States like Italian cooking as practiced in Italy and non-Americanized Chinese cooking. Much as I enjoy a meal in a good restaurant, I’d almost always rather eat my own cooking. I regret that I can’t play the piano or guitar: because I love music I’d like to make it with my own brain and hands, just as I do with cooking.



Zero Population Growth in Singapore

“Right now the total fertility rate in Singapore is at about 1.2 and at times it has slipped down as far as 1.16. ”

Why does Singapore have such a low birth rate?

Model Railroads, Yesterday and Today

american flyer“What we do today, and brilliantly, is model the entire railroad: We actually fill out the paper forms and “operate” the railroad more or less prototypically, even — here we find class again — modeling (reproducing) the social relations that make the General Code of Operating Rules come alive (leaving out the Jay Goulds and Jim Fisks, of course). And we model the landscape (the “scenery”) infinitely better today than we did forty years ago, although we model the contours of the land by carving pink slabs of (petroleum-based) styrofoam, spraying electrostatic (petroleum-based) model grasses, gluing down the track with caulking guns like Martha Stewart, instead of using metal spikes for pity’s sake….”

Happy Boxing Day: My Train Set, Devolution, and Evolution

The Last Word

“Men are able to trust one another, knowing the exact degree of dishonesty they are entitled to expect.”

—Stephen Leacock, Canadian economist, born December 30, 1869

Looking Backward at the Automobile Age

“Art is a kind of illness.”

—Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer, born December 22, 1858

Fuzzy dice detailA retrospective look at the transition from the automobile-dominated world of the early 21st century to the mostly carless world that came later. Cars really were right smack in the middle of everything back in the day, weren’t they?

10 Exhibits from the Phenomenology of Automobiles

  1. Hood Ornaments
  2. Hot Rod Magazine, 1948-Present
  3. Chickie Run (Rebel Without a Cause, 1955)
  4. “The Fo’d Got Hot and Wouldn’t Do No Mo’ — Maybellene, Chuck Berry, 1955
  5. The Edsel
  6. Chevy Corvair aka Unsafe at Any Speed
  7. Lizzies of the Field, Mack Sennet, 1924. I want a 40hp Snoozenberg.
  8. “Daisy Duke” — Catherine Bach in the Dukes of Hazzard, 1979
  9. On the Road Jack Kerouac, 1957
  10. Traffic Accident Compendium, U.S. Census, 2012


A Carless Future

184px-Bonnieclyde f“Workers no longer “go” to work 6 days a week. Workers got Saturday off in the mid–20th Century. Getting every-other Friday off (the 5/4 schedule) became standard by 2015, establishing the 3-day weekend every other week as the norm. By 2020, this was every weekend, as people moved to a 9 hour day, 4 days per week at the office, and the other 4 hours were “at home” work – checking email on the long weekend, erasing once strict separation of home and work. By 2025 taking every-other Monday off (the 4/3 schedule) was established in most large employers. Today we are seeing half-days on Wednesdays for many office workers, with only Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays as interactive collaboration days. The “flipped” office, where people were expected to do “work” at home on their own computers, and only show up for meetings is now standard.”

What happened to traffic?

The Last Word

“Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.”

—Lady Bird Johnson, American first lady, born December 22, 1912

Home for the Holidays

“The sacrifices of friendship were beautiful in her eyes as long as she was not asked to make them.”

—Hector Hugh Munro, British novelist, born December 18, 1870

keatingRead this piece about how the Federal government has addressed the potential criminality involved in the financial crisis in 2008 by Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Comparisons with how the Savings and Loan and Junk Bond débâcles were treated are highly instructive. The five year statute of limitations on prosecutions is just about up, you’ll be happy to hear. Then it’s home for the holidays with Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, and his family.


Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:15-9:00AM Holyoke Chicopee Chamber December 2013 Salute Breakfast
8:45-11:45AM Holyoke River Valley Investors
5:00-8:00PM Longmeadow East of the River Chamber Time to Get Your Holiday On
5:00-7:00PM Holyoke Greater Holyoke Chamber After Hours
12:00-2:00PM Easthampton Don’t Eat Lunch Alone
12:00PM Springfield Exchange Club of Springfield
12:00-1:00PM Northampton Pioneer Valley Wellness Alliance
6:00-9:00PM Springfield How to Start Your Own Business


Michael Milken 1

The Last Word

“I find, in being black, a thing of beauty: a joy; a strength; a secret cup of gladness.”

—Ossie Davis, American actor, born December 18, 1917